[SEATTLE] – (MTN) The Seattle Police Department reported that the ecology blocks and fences that have surrounded the East Precinct since last fall are being replaced with a fence that will permit sidewalk access, and the work on that new inner fence appears to be nearing completion.
The new fence appears to be 12 feet high and made of a tight mesh. An access gate is outside the public entrance to the East Precinct building. The windows continue to be boarded up. The fence that sat atop the ecology blocks was removed earlier this week. The straps that held the ecology blocks together have also been removed.
Business leaders and residents have requested the ecology blocks come down for months. Some have complained about the sidewalk being blocked, while others find the presence an eyesore.
The East Precinct has been a flashpoint since June 1, 2020, when protesters tried to march past the building. Seattle Police set up a barricade preventing George Floyd protesters from advancing past the station and escalated when a police officer grabbed a pink umbrella, and the crowd was pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed.
That incident led to daily standoffs that drew larger groups of protesters daily. On June 6 tens of thousands of protesters marched from Harborview Medical Center to what was called the Western Barricade. Several doctors and nurses jumped the barricade and were escorted back by Seattle Police. Seattle police threw blast balls, used 40MM munitions, and fired pepper spray at thousands of protesters after a small group moved the western barricade approximately 5 feet.
Seattle Police accused protesters of using IEDs in a tweet that became the subject of an OPA investigation. The next day in a joint press conference Mayor Jenny Durkan and then-Police Chief Carmen Best apologized for the excessive force used and stated they would review the use of chemical weapons for crowd control.
On June 7, Nikolas Alexander Fernandez, 31, drove his car into the crowd and was stopped by a metal barricade. He shot Daniel Gregory, 27, in the arm before surrendering to SPD. Fernandez has been charged with assault in the first degree, which in Washington state is the equivalent of attempted murder.
On June 8 the East Precinct was evacuated by Seattle Police, and CHOP was born. Former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, and Mayor Jenny Durkan both deny they gave the order to evacuate the building. The issue is under investigation by the OPA and Director Andrew Myerberg stated on Converge Media they would issue a report.
On July 1 CHOP was cleared by a joint task force of area police departments. The building was reoccupied by Seattle Police, where Chief Best received a standing ovation from officers in a video distributed on Twitter.
On August 24, 2020, Desmond David-Pitts, 19, of Alaska, used quick-setting concrete in an attempt to seal a door at the East Precinct and lit a fire. He was quickly arrested after the incident and pleaded guilty to federal arson charges in January 2021. The ecology blocks and fence were erected and reinforced shortly after the incident.
Jacob Greenberg, 19, of Kirkland, is accused of throwing two Molotov cocktails at the East Precinct on September 1, 2020. Greenberg was arrested on September 29 and charged on October 16, along with Danielle McMillan. Both are awaiting trial.
On October 31, the Seattle Police Department threatened to confiscate equipment and an art display from the John Mitchell Art Studio. The studio was using a projector to play images of police activity and protests from the CHOP era on the ecology blocks by a sally port. Ultimately, the art exhibit stayed.
The Seattle Police made numerous arrests for graffiti and chalk art on the wall, occasionally doing mass arrests under Seattle Municipal Code. The arrests were made despite city prosecutors communicating that these types of arrests would not be prosecuted and at a time SPD was claiming they needed its budget increased.
In more recent months the East Precinct has been less of a protest flashpoint as both SPD and protesters adjust tactics.
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